Resilience and Positive Emotions

ResilienceIn keeping with the concept of resilience as the capacity to bounce back from stressful experiences, three studies using college students (Tugade and Fredrickson, 2004) provide empirical evidence for this theory.

They demonstrate the use of positive emotions to rebound from stress and to find positive meaning in stressful encounters. In the adult literature it has been demonstrated that positive emotions help to buffer against stress and that the use of positive reappraisal, problem-focused coping and the infusion of events with positive meaning are related to the occurrence and maintenance of positive affect (Folkman and Moskowitz, 2000); this predicts increases in psychological health and well-being (Affleck and Tennen, 1996). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions articulated by Fredrickson (1998, 2001) demonstrates how positive and negative emotions provide distinct and complementary adaptive functions.

The cognitive and physiological effects can be felt in that positive emotions broaden one’s coping repertoire while negative emotions tend to focus on the `attack when angry and escape when afraid’. Linked with this view of emotions is the concept of emotional intelligence, described by Salovey and Mayer (1989 ±90) as the capacity to identify and regulate one’s emotions and use them to guide one’s thinking and actions. Positive emotions beget positive emotions and help to achieve an upward spiral of resources that will enhance emotional well-being.

Additionally, in the educational context, for example, a positive mood enhances elaborate processing, even of negative information. There has been convincing evidence that enjoyment of a learning task has had a positive influence on performance. Pekrun, Goetz, Titzand Perry (2002) tested the assumption that intrinsic activating positive emotions enhance motivation, facilitate elaborate information-processing, benefit from creative and flexible ways of thinking, direct attention towards task performance, and help self-regulation, implying that they should contribute to academic achievement.

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They found that positive emotions do in fact relate in significant ways to learning achievement. Enjoyment, hope and pride related positively to students’ meta cognitive strategies for learning, and to flexible cognitive strategies of elaboration, organization and critical thinking.